Renew On Line (UK) number73

Extracts from NATTA's journal
Renew, Issue 173 May-June 2008
   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         

1. UK Needs to try harder 

2. Wave and Tidal-  ‘slow progress’

3. RO bands- no to REFIT  

4. Biofuel doubts grow 

5 Micro power- ups and down  

6. Reactions to Nuclear White paper 

7. Wind power developments  

8. Planning Changes 

9. Global developments  

10. EU News 

11. Nuclear News


9. Global developments  

Climate Change 

The summary by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of current knowledge at the end of last year, was sobering (a 4o rise was likely with massive impacts especially on poorer countries), but didn’t stop climate deniers from arguing it was still uncertain.

So we heard all the familiar arguments: climate change is occurring on Mars and that’s nothing do with us (true, but so what?  It’s also occurred here before, but now it’s us driving it); nature produces over 90% of all CO2- man’s contribution is under 0.5% (it’s a delicate balance, so small changes can trigger major changes); any man made changes in CO2 are overwhelmed by forest fires, volcanic eruptions (true, global dimming may disguise it’s impact temporarily). The issue will only be irrefutably resolved when and if temperatures top those that have occurred in the past four interglacials. But if we wait till then it will be too late to do anything.  And even then deniers may still say it’s due to some other effect- solar/cosmic ray variations. For a useful overview, see 2/hi/science/nature/7092655.stm

Of course some people in the Peak Oil lobby say the global economy could crash long before climate change has a serious impact. OPEC says there are 100 years or more of reserves, but one gloomy scenario has western GDP falling by 50% by 2050 and developing countries suffering a 70% GNP cut.    

 Details at:

Ship out An IPCC study says shipping adds almost 4.5% to global CO2  emissions- over twice that directly from aviation.

Rio+15 and Bali 

International conferences on how to deal with climate change continue. The first major one was in Rio in 1992, and the Rio +15 gathering there last year, taking stock, was surprisingly upbeat, according to Jill Barker, from EcoSecurities, reporting in ReFocus weekly. She said several false perceptions were scotched. A key one was that there was a lack of capital, which she said ‘was categorically denied by representatives of the financial sector’ who claimed that the real problem was that ‘political uncertainty regarding the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol makes financial players hesitant to get involved’. Then in Dec. the signatories to UN Framework Convention on Climate Change met again, this time in Bali. They set an agenda for developing the post-2012 ‘Kyoto II’- which needs to be agreed by next year- but no targets.

Carbon Action Partnership  

Perhaps  more  practically,  a  coalition  of EU countries, the European Commission, US states, Canadian provinces, New Zealand and Norway have formed an International Carbon Action Partnership.

ICAP will provide an international forum in which governments and public authorities adopting mandatory greenhouse gas emissions cap and trade systems will share experiences and best practices on the design of emissions trading schemes. The Forum will try to ensure that programmes are more compatible and are able to work together as the foundation of a global carbon market, so as to boost demand for low-carbon products and services, promote innovation, and allow cost effective emission reductions. The agreement was signed by EU members- including the UK Portugal, Germany, France, Ireland, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Greece, and the European Commission- U.S. & Canadian members of the Western Climate Initiative, north-eastern U.S. members of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, as well as New Zealand & Norway, who joined on behalf of their emissions trading programmes.

WEC latest 

Renewables could supply 70% of world energy by 2100, says the World Energy Council in its 2007 survey, citing a recent German study. 

World Future Energy

The global energy summit in Abu Dhabi in January heard that Abu Dhabi’s Masdar initiative would get $15bn for work on renewables.  Shell and BP backed renewables as vital to meet demand for clean power

1GW MagLev US Wind tower 

A US company has ideas for a giant 1GW vertical axis wind turbine with conventional bearings replaced by a magnetic levitation system- thus avoiding friction: see pic.  MagLev Wind Turbine Technologies of Arozona claims that the system could deliver clean power for less than one US cent per kilowatt hour. It would certainly have its attractions: as noted by the engaging US web site (, a single huge turbine would require only a fraction of the land space of conventional turbines. But surely the blade stresses would be huge?  

More at: 

Much smaller versions of this idea already exist. The novel Mag-wind MW1100 is being marketed in N.America: see picture above right and:  

And in China, Zhongke Hengyuan Energy Technology Co. Ltd. has invested 400m yuan in production facilities for units up to 5kW. It’s claimed that generation costs could be 5 cents/kWh or less. Small units like this can use permanent magnets, whereas presumably giant systems would have to use power hungry electro-magnets: see our Technology section.   For more see:        index.php/Directory:MagLev_Wind_Power_Generator

Canada goes tidal  

British company Marine Current Turbines Ltd (MCT), the developer of  1.2 MW SeaGen, the world’s largest and most advanced tidal stream energy system, has signed an agreement with Canada’s Maritime Tidal Energy Corporation (MTEC) to harness the huge tidal currents of the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. MTEC and MCT are submitting a joint proposal to the Nova Scotia Dept. of Energy to deploy MCT’s SeaGen technology in the Bay of Fundy, which has one of the greatest tidal resources in the world.

Martin Wright, MCT’s Managing Director said: ‘Working with MTEC in Canada, we will be using our unrivalled knowledge and experience from our 1.2MW SeaGen commercial tidal system as well as our previous work with our 300kW SeaFlow tidal project in the Bristol Channel, the world’s first offshore tidal stream device, to tap the massive potential that exists in the Bay of Fundy’. The Nova Scotia Department of Energy plans to have tidal turbines operating in the Bay of Fundy during 2009.

* Dublin-based Open Hydro are also installing one if their Open Centre Turbines in the Bay of Fundy, under the auspices of Nova Scotia Power.  

* MCT have also signed a co-operation agreement with Canada’s BC Tidal Energy Corporation to deploy at east three of its Seagen turbines in waters off Vancouver, British Columbia. They should be on installed on Vancouver Island’s Campbell River by 2009. The agreement is the first step in a plan to develop larger tidal farms off British Columbia’s coast, which the company says have a tidal potential of up to 4GW.  

Not everything goes to plan... 

 Finavera’s Lost Buoy

Last September Finavera Renewables deployed a 72 foot high 40 tonne $2m AquaBuOY 2.0 wave energy converter 2.5 miles off the coast of Newport, Oregon for a series of tests. It was the first installation of a wave device of this scale off the west coast of North America and Finavera saw it as ‘moving the Company closer to achieving its goal of commercial electricity generation from ocean waves by 2010’.  Tragically however, at the end of Oct, just hours before its scheduled removal at the end of the test programme, AquaBuOY 2.0 sunk, in about 155 of water.

Finavera Renewable’s spokesman Mike Clark said, ‘It seems to have something to do with the float section of the device’. He said the buoy began taking on water and the bilge pump ‘couldn’t keep up with the amount of water it was taking on’.  The pump failed and the device went down. ‘We’re pretty sure it didn’t have anything to do with the power-generating technology,’ and foul-play was discounted. But worsening weather made retrieval hard. According to Clark, the test buoy was only engineered to withstand three months of use, but the fact that it sunk after two is obviously worrying, although Finavera did claim that “for the purpose of the project, it was highly successful”, in that they had got the test data they needed. Clark said the buoy’s sinking would not slow Finavera’s wave energy development: they were working on a third generation buoy: AquaBuOY 3.0. Its next buoy deployment will probably not take place before the end of 2008.   Source: article by Miriam Widman, Renewable Energy Weekly,  

Algeria CSP & EU link    

Algerian company, New Energy Algeria Ltd (NEAL), is planning to install an under-sea power link to Germany to export solar generated electricity from a Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plant in the Sahara. The 3,000 km cable would be laid from the Algerian town of Adrar via the island of Sardinia, mainland Italy, Switzerland and then to the German city of Aachen, under a project provisionally entitled ‘Clean Power From The Desert’ according to a report in El Moudhaid daily, relayed by Reuters. The project would be carried out in partnership with a consortium of investors including Algerian state energy giant Sonatrach, a shareholder in NEAL, and depends on final approval from both governments.

Reuters added that the power for the project would initially come from hybrid solar-gas plants, but longer term would eventually come from solar-only ventures. It reported that NEAL was building the hybrid solar-gas CSP plant in partnership with Spain’s Abener Energia Spa. It would cost 250m euro and have a capacity of 150 MW, with the power for the project at least initially coming only partly from solar. It would be at Hassi R’Mel in central M’Zab province and is due to come on stream in late 2009. It will be the first of a series of combined-cycle hybrid plants that NEAL says should have capacity of 500MW, or 5% of national generating capacity, by 2010. As solar technology improves, they would expand the solar proportion and then establish pure solar generation plants without the need for gas. NEAL says Algeria’s plans to supply solar power to Europe presuppose greater flexibility in European power markets, so they can link direct to customers. 

Egypt is already building a large £30m CSP unit, near Cairo.

Morocco too: A hybrid  470 MW CSP/fossil combined cycle plant is to be built at Aïn Béni Mathar, with 20MW from solar troughs. See Technology

Next-China: According to DESERTEC (see Groups), the whole of China could be powered by CSP plants in the desert regions in the north of the country. Most of those regions are under 3000 km from places like Beijing and Shanghai and it is feasible and cost effective to transmit solar electricity by HVDC over those distances. There are plans by German company Solar Millennium to build a 50 MW $162m pilot CSP plant at Ordos in Mongolia to the north of China, followed by a 1GW project by 2020, costing $2.5 bn.

US CSP The US. Dept. of Energy will invest $5.2m in 12 low-cost Concentrating Solar Power    projects. It’s aiming to get to under 10 c/kWh by 2015.

China’s Renewables  

The Worldwatch Institutes new report on renewables in China concludes that it is likely to meet, and may even exceed, its target of getting 15% of its energy from  renewables by 2020 and could get to 30% by 2050.  

China has already become a global leader in renewables  and is expected to invest more than $10 bn in them in 2007. They currently supply 8% of its energy- 17% of electricity- and projections are for that to rise to 15% and 21% by 2020- with 400 GW being installed. It now has 5.6GW of wind plant installed- with 4GW more expected in 2008.

Biofuels debate 

Views on biofuels seem to be getting increasingly polarised. Writing in the Guardian last Nov., George Monbiot damned them pretty much entirely: ‘If the governments promoting biofuels do not reverse their policies, the humanitarian impact will be greater than that of the Iraq war. Millions will be displaced, hundreds of millions more could go hungry. This crime against humanity is a complex one, but that neither lessens nor excuses it. If people starve because of biofuels, Ruth Kelly and her peers will have killed them.  Like all such crimes it is perpetrated by cowards, attacking the weak to avoid confronting the strong.’

But Ricardo Hausmann from Harvard University insisted in the Financial Times (Nov 6)  that ‘the world is full of under-utilised land that can grow the biomass that the new technology will require.  According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the world has a bit less than 1.4bn hectares under cultivation. But using the Geographic Information System database, Rodrigo Wagner and I have estimated that there are some 95 countries that have more than 700m hectares of good quality land that is not being cultivated. Depending on assumptions about productivity per hectare, today’s oil production represents the equivalent of some 500m to 1bn hectares of biofuels. So the production potential of biofuels is in the same ball park as oil production today.’  He added that farmers will get more money and ‘the increase in the price of agricultural land and of food will relieve governments from the current political pressure to protect the agricultural sector’. 

* In sharp contrast, five senior academics, including Prof. David Pimentel from Cornell University, wrote to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change pointing out what they thought were serious deficiencies in IPCC’s statement on  biofuels:


Summary with context links at

But not everyone is happy with Pimentel’s analysis: e.g. see  

* Given that there has been a lot of criticism of using corn for biofuels, several alternatives have been proposed.  Amongst them is the idea of using cattails for  for ethanol production, as promoted by David Blume from the International  Institute for Ecological Agriculture. See his book, ‘Alcohol Can Be A Gas’ 

Very high yields are claimed and even higher yields may be possible with fertilizer. But using  fertilizers for biofuel production is a potential problem due to the N2O gas produced when they are burnt. N2O has nearly 300 times more impact on global warming than CO2. A study led by atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen found the relative warming due to N2O emissions from corn ethanol were 0.9-1.5 times those from the fossil fuel. The range for sugar cane ethanol was 0.5-0.9. It has been calculated that, as result, if the US increased corn ethanol production by a factor of seven, as has been proposed, net greenhouse gas emissions could increase by 6%. So it’s all about oil substitution- not climate change.

INforSE block agrofuels 

INforSE Europe, the International Network for Sustainable Energy, has called for an immediate moratorium on incentives for ‘agrofuels’ (liquid fuels from large-scale monoculture agriculture) in EU countries including tree plantations and a moratorium on EU imports of such agrofuels.  And also for the immediate change of all targets for biofuel use in transportation to targets for sustainable transportation, such as targets for transport energy from sustainable renewable energy, energy efficiency increases, reductions of unnecessary transport, and shifts to more environmentally benign forms of transport.  But they say ‘This call for a moratorium for agrofuels does not include the use of biofuels in truly sustainable ways, such as the replacement of imported fossil fuels by the local use of sustainably produced biofuels’.  More at:

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